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Changes in EU timber regulations

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Architects must exercise due diligence in timber procurement, says Malcolm Ellis of International Timber

Malcolm Ellis of International Timber reports

Timber is one of the most sustainable and environmentally friendly construction materials. If harvested correctly, it is both biodegradable and recyclable – two qualities that contribute to its sustainability credentials. With any successful commodity, however, comes the issue of illegal supply.

The EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), which came into effect on 3 March 2013, addresses this serious issue. The new regulations prohibit timber ‘operators’ from placing timber or timber products from illegally harvested sources on the EU market ‘for the first time’ and require them to demonstrate a suitable due diligence process. For those parties who buy and sell timber in the EU market, i.e. ‘traders’, recording of suppliers and customers is now required.

The ‘operator’ who places timber on to the EU market for the first time must comply with the EUTR by introducing a ‘due diligence’ system. Failure to do so could result in a serious penalty. The ’due diligence’ system requires provision of information on the timber or timber products purchased, including a description of species, volume, country of harvest and, where applicable, concession of harvest. The operator must also record the name and address of all suppliers, and most importantly, document evidence of compliance with applicable local legislation.

The largest proportion of illegal timber comes from tropical sources so the new regulations will have the biggest impact on tropical timber species and the organisations that import tropical hardwood, tropical hardwood plywood and manufactured products containing these species.

Architects must be aware of the new regulations and ensure that all procurement is from an organisation which demonstrates a due diligence process. It is important to note that the regulations are not exclusive to tropical timber. Even if you are specifying timber that isn’t of a tropical species, you must ensure that the supply chain is credible.

You might think that EUTR does not affect architects, because most products will have already passed through operators and traders down the supply chain before reaching the specifier.  However, seizure of timber (a potential penalty) along the supply chain will have significant impacts on all involved, and from the architect’s perspective, could result in a direct cost to the bottom line of the project. It is vital that all participants in the supply chain, including designers, take due diligence seriously to ensure the credibility of the materials they source.


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